10 years in exile

3 May 2022

This is my Fight for Justice

On January 14 2012, while I was photographing a protest near the southeastern border of Kosovo, I was attacked by a police officer, who elbowed me so hard, that he knocked me out.

In May 2012, I filed a lawsuit against the government of Kosovo, seeking justice and accountability for his actions. Two days later, I was forced to flee the country, after threats were made on my life.

In April 2015, while I was in London attending a conference, my home was raided by as described by my family “armed plainclothes people” once again. Concerned for my safety, my family advised me not to return.  

In December 2016, after I’d unsuccessfully sought asylum in several other countries, I was successful in my application to the UK, thanks to the assistance of Amnesty International, and seven years later I was granted indefinite leave to remain.

14 May 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of my ongoing fight for justice, and 16 May marks a decade since I first had to flee in fear of my safety. I don’t know what the future holds, but whatever transpires, one thing is certain: I won’t give up.

Sinister motive

The perpetrator of the attack was Faruk Ibrahimi, an officer I identified as the personal driver of the police commander for the Gjilan region – a unit I had been investigating over allegations of involvement in organised crime. I couldn’t complete that investigation after the attempt on my life and a series of threats by the commander’s husband that the attempt would be repeated. That was doubtless their intention.

Trial without end

In September 2015, the Municipal Court in Kosovo ruled that I had been both physically and psychologically harmed, but refused to acknowledge that my human rights – guaranteed by the country’s constitution – had been violated. In November 2015, as it refused to address who had caused me harm, I took my case to the Court of Appeal. On 16 November 2021, the court overturned the Municipal Court’s entire ruling, sending the case back to a lower court for a re-hearing.

David vs Goliath

Kosovo’s media environment is polluted by political interference, endemic corruption and financial control by organised crime syndicates that ruled the country for 21 years.

Journalists who dare to criticise the authorities are branded ‘traitors’, ‘spies’, ‘Serb sympathizers’ or simply ‘stupid’. At least eight have been killed for doing their jobs, and no one has been held accountable. In 2004, investigative journalist Fatmire Terdeci was shot in the shoulder while she was pregnant.

I believe I’m the first journalist to take the Kosovan authorities to court over their responsibility to permit me to do my job in safety. I’m likely also to be the first to take the Kosovan government to court for failing to ensure that safety – the failure of which forced me into exile.

Vudi Xhymshiti
Author: Vudi Xhymshiti

Vudi is an exiled journalist from Kosovo who has been living and working in the United Kingdom for the past seven years. As a photojournalist, he focuses on the politics of race, gender, identity, migration, and people's displacement due to climate change and armed conflict. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Paris Match, Der Spiegel, Welt, Vice and Vanity Fair. Xhymshiti is the founder of VX Pictures and a leading tutor in photography, visual journalism, ethics and entrepreneurship.

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